Using Research to Inform Policies and Practices in STEM Education

The growing need to increase the number of individuals who pursue degrees and careers in the sciences, including the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the social, behavioral, and economic disciplines has been documented in numerous reports and articles, as has the underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, students with disabilities, and women in many of the these fields. At the same time, research has attempted to explain why certain groups are underrepresented in higher education generally and in specific fields more than others. The cost of financing advanced degrees in the sciences, the “chilly climate” some groups face in academic departments, and issues related to identity and stereotype threat are all factors that have been posed as potential challenges or barriers to broadening participation in the sciences.

AIR’s symposium, “Using Research to Inform Policies and Practices in STEM Education,” engaged social science researchers and higher education practitioners in critical conversations about the research on barriers and challenges women of all races and ethnicities and underrepresented minorities encounter on the path to earning scientific postsecondary degrees, including the implications of this research for campus policy and practice.

The postsymposium report, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and audio clips of the presentations can be accessed here:

A Chilly Climate for Underrepresented Minority Students and Professionals in STEM 

Dr. Maria Ong, a project leader and evaluator in the Education Research Collaborative at TERC, discusses findings from two studies regarding the reasons graduate students choose to enter the professoriate in STEM, and barriers that generate a “chilly climate” and stifle the advancement of women of color in STEM education.

A Degree in Science What’s the Price? What’s the Cost?

Rita Kirshstein, AIR Managing Director, describes challenges facing students entering the STEM field, including the increased cost of college tuition, college affordability, and differences in undergraduate and graduate-level debt among students in STEM and the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

Accumulating Disadvantage College Financing Strategies and STEM Outcomes for Underrepresented Students

Lindsey Malcolm-Piqueux, an Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration at George Washington University, discusses college financing strategies among STEM bachelor degree holders, and how financial aid policies at the institutional, state, and federal levels structure underrepresented minority students’ academic trajectories and outcomes in STEM.

Addressing Chilly Climates in Science and Engineering PhD Programs

Keivan Stassun, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University and an Adjunct Professor of Physics at Fisk University, explains the aims and successes of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-PhD Bridge Program in increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in physics and astronomy, biology and biomedical sciences, chemistry, and materials and engineering PhD programs.

Broadening Participation and Cultivating Success in STEM: An Ecological Approach

Dr. Lindsey Malcolm-Piqueux describes the underrepresentation of minority men and women in STEM and stresses the importance of utilizing a comprehensive, ecological approach that examines social, academic, institutional, cultural, experiential, and individual-level factors to broaden minority participation in STEM.

Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program

Dr. Dina Myers Stroud, Executive Director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters–PhD Bridge Program, discusses the goal of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-PhD Bridge program to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning PhDs in astronomy, biology, chemistry, materials science, and physics.

Helping All Kids Discover and Achieve Their Dreams

Dr. Michael Kubiak, Chief Research and Evaluation Officer for Citizen Schools, describes practices underlying the Citizen School program, whose goal is to reduce opportunity gaps for middle school students with underprivileged backgrounds by helping them to become better engaged and academically prepared in school, college, and their future careers.

Latino Men in STEM: The First Semester Experience

Dr. Charles Lu serves as the Director of Academic Advancement and Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, and has conducted research on Latino males’ experiences in STEM graduate programs. Results from Dr. Lu’s study reveal the significance of Latino males in STEM having a well-developed sense of belonging within their academic environments, and of being able to successfully negotiate multiple identities graduate school.

Stereotype Threat

Dr. Collette Patt, Director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Diversity and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses her work to launch a new effort to reduce stereotype threats among female and underrepresented minority (URM) students in STEM and enhance these students’ performance and persistence in STEM degree programs.

Succeeding in Physics

Dr. Fries-Britt, Director of Higher Education, Student Affairs and International Education Program (HESI) at the University of Maryland, College Park, describes the significance of students in STEM postsecondary degree programs feeling competent and supported early on, and the numerous obstacles URM students often face that may lead them to “disidentify” with STEM education.

Using a Belonging Framework to Understand Gender Disparities in pSTEM

Dr. Jane Stout, Director of the Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP) at the Computing Research Association, describes a “belonging framework” as the importance of having a strong sense of belonging in the physical sciences, technology, engineering, and math (pSTEM), and the linkages between gender disparities and belonging in pSTEM PhD programs.

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